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Aerospace

Students test University of Southampton’s first hybrid rocket engine

Published: 2 May 2014Origin: Engineering

The first test of a student-designed hybrid rocket engine was successfully conducted earlier this week, using a new on-campus rocket test facility.

The rocket uses a liquid oxidiser and a solid propellant fuel grain. Such engines have potential space applications and a similar (although much larger!) engine is being used to power the Bloodhound supersonic car up to 1000 mph. Both the engine and the propellant delivery system were designed  by final-year MEng students in Aeronautics and Astronautics as part of their Group Design Project, co-supervised by Dr. Graham Roberts and Prof. Tony Musker and sponsored by Surrey Satellites Technology Ltd.

The liquid oxidiser is decomposed into superheated steam and oxygen in a catalyst bed before passing into the combustion chamber, which contains the solid fuel rod. The fuel is melted and vaporised as the oxygen and steam flows through the central hole, or port, and then combusts, increasing the internal pressure and thrust produced. The peak thrust achieved on the first, low pressure run was 28 N (nearly 3 kgf). The target thrust is 40 N when run at a higher pressure.

A paper describing the design of the thruster and propellant delivery system, co-authored by the students and project supervisors, will be presented at the Space Propulsion 2014 conference in Cologne later this month.

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